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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  August 23, 2010 3:05am-4:00am EDT

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they were the elite, the proud, the chosen. >> just another day at the office. >> and he was their leader. >> those guys fought their hearts out for each other. >> alone and surrounded. they knew the attack was coming. >> oh, man, the whole world was exploding around you. >> in the end, the toll was terrible. for families, not just grief but serious questions. >> i don't want this to happen to any other family. >> why did it happen? >> there was a leadership failure, in your opinion? >> absolutely. >> now, these parents, including this life-long army officer and this heartbroken mom, are taking their questions straight to the
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men in charge. can they find out the truth why their sons died? >> i can absolutely understand your emotion about this. >> you can't. you didn't lose a son out there. >> richard engel with "a father's mission." >> good evening and welcome to "dateline." i'm lester holt in for ann curry. it was a week dominated by news about afghanistan. general stanley mcchrystal, the commander of u.s. forces there, was fired. there were increasing questions about the military's counterinsurgency strategy and new criticism of the karzai administration. but nothing brings home the pain and complexity of afghanistan more than stories of our soldiers who were fighting there. for one platoon, a bloody battle in a remote eastern valley took a terrible toll. now the families of the soldiers who died there have taken on an
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emotional mission of their own to find out what really happened and who should be held accountable. here's nbc's chief foreign accountable. here's nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel. captions paid for by nbc-universal television when you send your son off to war, you expect that they'll get everything that this great country can give them to protect them. >> this situation was pure recklessness. you just have to say, this is wrong. >> bad things happen in war, but our boys are not cannon fodder. the united states has to protect these men. and in this case, it was not done. >> reporter: every parent who sends a son or daughter to war knows the worst can happen. but that deep, often unspoken, fear, is tempered by a faith that the military won't
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needlessly risk the lives of their loved ones. >> your son takes off, but he's coming home. i never imagined that he wouldn't. i always thought that jonathan would always be coming home. he was jonathan. >> reporter: jonathan, jonathan p.brostrom. a 24-year-old army second lieutenant from honolulu, hawaii. >> he was your typical american boy. very athletic. had lots of friends. >> reporter: you might say the army was in john brostrom's dna. his father dave was armstrong long before the ad campaign. >> it's a great institution. i spent my whole life in the army. >> reporter: dave brostrom was a retired colonel after 30 years. when john was in high school, they moved to hawaii. it proved a tropical paradise for an adventurous kid. >> he loved to surf, golf. >> reporter: one of the great joyce of jonathan's life was his son jace, who lived with his
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mother on the mainland. john loved to surf with his boy. at the university of hawaii, john joined army rotc. his parents were with him every step of the way. >> he grew up as a military brat. he tried to follow in my footsteps. made me very proud. >> reporter: john volunteered for the infantry. that choice surprised his parents, especially dave, a helicopter pilot who had commanded an aviation unit in desert storm. >> when he said i'm going to be in an infantry, i kind of cringed. >> we tried to talk him out of it. >> he wanted to be in the fight? >> he wanted to. >> at the front lines. >> at the front. >> reporter: after being commissioned as a second lieutenant, bro is strom was assigned to the 172nd airborne. his dad pulled a few strings to get him into the unit which was commanded by an old family friend. in the fall of 2007 t newly minted officer was sent to
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flging if. >> he called and said he got his platoon. i was excited. because that's where you start your career. >> reporter: in afghanistan his platoon quickly warmed up to him. there was pride in the yoon etd. it was called chosen company, but the soldiers called themselves the chosen few. the platoon was part of a frontline unit. his men all enlisted to see action. and in today's see all that you can see youtube army, they documented themselves in afghanistan. at work -- >> just another day at the office. >> reporter: -- and at play. >> okay. >> reporter: an all-state high school wrestler and training to be a mixed martial artist. ramie impressed his unit early on with his strength and iz uncanny gift for poker. >> when he wasn't fighting, wasn't on duty, he was playing poker. >> reporter: a game he learned from his father. >> he would actually call me
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during the games so i could talk with some of the other guys. >> here's bogar. >> reporter: jason bogar, more introspective than his comrades, was on his second tour. he also did hurricane relief in new orleans. he e-mailed his photos and videos to his mom in seattle. >> incredible pictures of the people and the surroundings. then he would put these videos together with music. and they were incredible. >> reporter: some of the videos, like this one, gave an idea just how tough life was in the afghan mountains for his men. ♪ montage >> reporter: comic relief was provided by a born-again christian from tennessee, named jason hovater. >> he was the life of the party. >> reporter: according to his
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sister, he had always been funny. >> if you weren't his friend, then you wanted to be his friend. because he would make everybody laugh. >> standing in the rocks is a big deal. black hawks. they're so black and powerful. >> reporter: in a close knit family of second platoon, gunner zwilling was their little brother. gunnar's dad said he was proud to be part of chosen company. >> he was there for one reason. for his guys. he would go through as much as they go through together, you learn to love each other like brothers. >> reporter: brostrom's platoon was in 'n tthe mountains bordery nuristan. >> i knew he was probably in firefights. but when he called us, he didn't talk about any of that. >> our conversations were short because when he would call, he
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was always busy. i'm busy, i got to go. i just got a minute. y just want you to know that i'm fine, love, miss you guys. i got to get back to the guys. >> reporter: no indication that he was in danger? he seemed calm and excited about the mission. >> we were happy and proud. we still did not know what was going on. >> reporter: john brostrom wasn't telling his parents how dangerous eastern afghanistan really was for him and for his men. >> basically just walking around waiting to get tagged all the time. >> reporter: and that the chosen few were about to learn it would soon get much worse. healthy beauty is a journey.
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and it's scientifically proven to... ♪ [ sighs ] [ female announcer ] k-y brand intense. intensifies female satisfaction. in the valley of eastern afghanistan in 2007, the soldiers of chosen company were fighting in a nearly forgotten war. their mission, to prevent enemy fighters from infiltrating into afghanistan from across the border in neighboring pakistan and to protect the local afghans. lieutenant john brostrom and his men were based in camp blessing. it was big and well fortified, but the soldiers also defended other much smaller and much more isolated outposts including one named bella. chosen company suffered serious casualties defending the little outposts. sergeant christopher mckag. >> we're really aggressive. we had to do patrols just to
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keep the enemy off us basically. >> reporter: in november, insurgents ambushed one of their patrols. five soldiers and a marine were killed and all the survivors wounded. brostrom's platoon recovered the fallen. >> we lost five guys out of first platoon. >> reporter: sergeant tyler stafford was another of lieutenant john brostrom's men. their families were starting to learn a little about what they were going through. jason hovater's sister recalled a phone call he made back home to tennessee. >> he dropped the phone but the phone line was still open. and i could hear the enemy attacking them, and i just dropped down to my knees and start eed praying. please, don't let this be the day. i heard the shots stop and i heard him and his fellow soldiers just start laughing like it happened all the time. >> reporter: the fighting
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continued almost daily for months. jason bogar didn't tell his mother much about it on the phone, but his videos told the story. >> when i saw it, i knew that they were in a really horrible place. >> reporter: they were nearing the end of their 15-month deployment when intelligence reports indicated a huge enemy force was massing. >> getting hit on a constant rate. and so reports of 300 mass enemy ready to overrun bella. so we knew it was game on for them. >> reporter: after literally hundreds of firefights, chosen company became increasingly battle hardened and they became increasingly suspicious of their afghan counterparts believing at the end of the day they could only truly rely on themselves. there was a growing unease about the mission and it wasn't just among the enlisted men. in may 2008, lieutenant john
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brostrom got leave and a flight home to hawaii. it was a surprise visit. >> i went to the door. it was jonathan. happy mother's day, mom. >> reporter: you started crying immediately? >> yes. couldn't get that door open fast enough to get him inside the house. he started talking, then immediately he went to the laptop to show us pictures of his platoon. >> reporter: these are the pictures john brostrom showed his mom. >> happy birthday. >> reporter: but his father saw these tapes. you didn't like everything that you saw. >> he showed me some combat footage that he took. it was pretty shocking. >> reporter: what did surprise you? >> some of these firefights are pretty intense. that combat outpost was being engaged almost on a daily basis. there's not much they can do. they're sitting ducks.
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i said, what are you doing out there? do you really engage with the locals? are you providing any sort of medical assistance to them? do you help build schools? and he goes, we used to, but we don't do that any more. we just try to kill them before they kill us. >> reporter: and that disturbed you? >> absolutely. >> reporter: the lieutenant's dad only grew more concerned when his son played him videos of air strikes and night time artillery raids. >> oh! >> i said, you need to get out of there. he said we are. we're going to move to a different location. he told me, dad, they're going to follow us. >> reporter: the enemy? >> the rumor is they're going to attack us with over 300 fighters. i said, son, don't worry abouty. this is the united states army. you'll have meant of firepower to back you up and protect you. >> reporter: despite what he had seen in jonathan's combat videos, the veteran officer still trusted the army to
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protect his son. they saw jonathan off at the honolulu airport. >> i told him the same thing that mary jo told him. love him and take care of his soldiers. and he'll be okay. >> reporter: back in afghanistan, army commanders decided to close the increasingly perilous combat post at bella and build a new base in a village called wanat. wanat was a local government center closer to their main base, and it could be replied by road. but the planned move was wildly unpopular with lieutenant john brostrom's men who were by now just weeks from going home. president brian hysong. >> we were up there several times. everyone knew it was a terrible spot to put a base. >> reporter: some of the soldiers were so worried about the move to wanat, they confided in family members. gunnar zwilling called his father at a fourth of july
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barbecue. >> his words were, it's a suicide mission. they're waiting on us. we know they're waiting on us. and he said, dad, it's going to be a blood bath. >> reporter: what was the tone of his voice? >> dad, i don't want to go, but i will go because that's my job. >> reporter: pruitt rainey, the card player, was so despairing of the move, he even told his dad to go ahead and play in a poker tournament they were planning to do together if he didn't make it home. >> i said why are you scared? wur not scared of anything. he said, you don't understand. this is not a good place. >> reporter: jason hovator, the devoutly christian platoon clown called his sister. >> he felt like they were going to be sitting ducks and that an attack was imminent and he said it's not going to be good. it's not going to be good. just pray that i don't go out on this mission. >> reporter: their prayers went
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unanswered. two weeks before the deployment was supposed to end, lieutenant john brostrom got orders to move his platoon to wanat. it would be their last hurdle before going home. >> everyone was pissed off. no one wants to go to this place, especially with no time left. the general thought was that something bad was going to happen. none of us really knew that it was
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in early july of 2008, just two week before they were supposed to go home, lieutenant john brostrom and his men of second platoon were digging in at wanat. their new base in eastern afghanistan. >> clear out in little bit of dirt. >> as usual, they videotaped it. >> scanlon and i are sitting out here in the middle of p[ bleep afghanistan. >> reporter: there was a lot of dark humor. >> that's one of the death
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mountains. >> reporter: over the next three days the men felt exposed as they built the new outpost defenses. >> we'll die before we go home. >> reporter: the outpost was divided into two sections. a football field sized camp where the soldiers set up their humvees a command post and the heavy weapons and mortars. there were about 40 american troops and 10 afghan soldiers on this main part of wanat. the outpost's other section is about 100 yards away. it was just an observation post manned by only nine soldiers. the men called this smaller part of wanat topside. topside was surrounded by a single strand of barbed wire. >> this is the most sucky thing ever to do. >> reporter: jason hovator sarcastically described their situation. >> why do we have to build a big ass hole. >> those people up there? they want to shoot at us. >> can't tell.
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they all look innocent and nice. >> they're not! >> they're not. >> reporter: chosen company was warned by village elders that the taliban were in the area. >> there's no women, there's no children in the village, just fighting-aged males. >> reporter: four days into the mission to set up wanat at 4:00 in the morning, lieutenant john brostrom's men were already on full alert. and in the predawn twilight, the attack came. >> we just started getting an unbelievable amount of fire. >> reporter: at least 200 insurgent fighters were attacking the outpost. from one of the hills, the taliban made this videotape. they first fire on the main part of wanat, disabling the big guns and mortars, then the insurgents focused on the little observation post called topside. sergeant christopher mccague was there. >> they were shooting at us, rpgs, small arjs then down low assaulting us from multiple
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directions. >> reporter: the militants' goal was to overrun topside and kill or capture the nine soldiers inside. >> oh, man. the whole world was exploding around you. >> reporter: sergeant tyler stafford was firing his machine gun with gunnar zwilling just beside him. >> right then another explosion happened right behind us. that was the last time i ever saw zwilling. >> reporter: another rpg slammed into their position. >> this is real bad. i'm wounded in the stomach, so i'm thinking it's pretty much over for me. >> reporter: the sergeant could see jason bogar firing away just above him. >> i looked down at bogar firing, he looked down at me. saw my arm was bleeding, wrapped my arm in a tourniquet, then went back to firing. >> you couldn't move. people who did move were getting hit. >> reporter: the soldiers at topside were losing and dying. but a brave charge to reinforce them was about to come. sergeant jeffrey scanlon was in
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the thick of the fighting. >> lieutenant brostrom had grabbed hovator and said, hey, i'm taking guys to reinforce. >> reporter: brostrom and hovator abandoned cover. it was a hundred yard dash through blistering fire to relieve topside. >> lieutenant brostrom was at an absolute full sprint. corporal hovator was on his heels. i could see the rounds hitting the ground. they were right in the middle of it. >> reporter: by the time they reached topside, it was even more dire than they expected. enemy fighters could now be seen inside the wire. the insurgents were right on top of them. >> i'm watching bogar, then i hear rainey shout, he's right behind the rocks, he's right behind the [ bleep ] sandbags. >> reporter: it took two more to get to topside. all the while the soldiers down below were being raked with automatic weapons fire.
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finally an hour in -- >> lightning bugs. >> reporter: the battle started to turn in the americans' favor when apache attack helicopters arrived overhead. >> be advised, we're in a bad situation. >> reporter: this was the scene through their infrared sites. >> the rockets right down here firing. >> they were firing within like 15 yards with a 35 millimeter which is unheard of -- absolutely amazing. >> i have a target. >> where are they at? >> all the way down on this little ridge. >> are you on them? >> roger. >> hit them. >> reporter: desperately needed medevac helicopters came to a makeshift landing zone under intense enemy fire. >> the lg is still hot. >> roger. >> the position that they were in, they were completely exposed to be shot at from all directions. they started waving to bring
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casualties. >> reporter: another chosen company platoon reached wanat by humvee. >> there's a guy just inside these trees. >> reporter: amazingly, despite the reinforcements and air support, the battle lasted three more hours. even with the survivors' accounts, gun cameras and taliban videotape, it is almost impossible to describe the valor of the men pinned down and outnumbered at wanat. it was simply as one military historian put it, hell in a very small place. >> we have fallen hero missions to follow. >> damn. >> reporter: after the spoke cleared, the terrible toll was evident. 27 soldiers were wounded and 9 of the chosen few lay dead. it was one of the worst casualty counts of the afghan war. even as the wounded were being medevacked to hospitals to germany and the u.s. for treatment, the solemn task of
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notifying the next of kin of those killed in wanat was already qulund way.
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the battle of wanat was one of the worst losses of american life in afghanistan, and on the morning of july 13th, 2008, the pain of that war reached nine american home towns.
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jason bogar's mother was starting her seattle sunday. >> and i heard a knock at the door, and i saw the military uniforms and said, you know, just tell me he isn't dead. they just looked at me. so you know, from that point on, it's just like, you know, your worst nightmare. >> reporter: jason bogar, the aspiring photographer, had been killed just two weeks before he was supposed to come home. in a st. louis suburb, gunnar zwilling's dad was checking his e-mail. >> front page on there was that there was an attack in eastern afghanistan and there was a number of dead. and i knew. just i knew. cleaned up, waited on the front porch. >> reporter: you were waiting outside for the army to arrive to notify you? >> it was maybe 45 minutes between the time i saw the
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article on the internet and the car pulled up in front of the house. >> reporter: 20-year-old gunnar zwilling, second platoon's little brother, was the youngest soldier to die at wanat. here in hawaii, one military family had just returned from church to their home overlooking pearl harbor. they were getting ready to go to the beach when they noticed an army van pull up outside their door. >> he had a major and a captain, chaplain standing there at the door. in their dress greens. and i knew immediately that something real bad happened. and then they told me that our son had been killed by small arms fire in afghanistan. >> reporter: lieutenant john brostrom, the military brat who had grown up to be an officer just like his dad, was dead. and killed beside him in that first heroic charge to save their friends was jason hovator. mary jo brostrom is a soldier's daughter, wife and mother. her surviving son blake, john's
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younger brother, is also an army officer, but nothing had prepared her for this. >> i saw my father go to vietnam twice, david "desert storm." your son takes off, but he's coming home. >> reporter: the brostrom's family friend, the colonel who commanded jonathan's unit called to offer his condolences. as a veteran officer, dave brostrom knew this day could come, but the grieving father couldn't quite understand how it happened. >> the background that i had in the military, having this heavily reinforced platoon taking that much casualties, to me, it didn't make sense. >> reporter: the brostroms were then extended a courtesy offered only to veteran officers. a formal power point briefing on the battle. it was conducted by their old friend the colonel. brostrom was troubled when his friend couldn't answer many of his questions about what went
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wrong at wanat. >> so the majority of the questions, he told me he'd get back with me. some of the questions he couldn't answer because of security reasons. >> reporter: you thought he wasn't being straight with you? >> right. >> reporter: along with that briefing, brostrom got a copy of a detailed army investigation. it included eyewitness accounts from the chosen company soldiers who survived the battle. >> you had to read the fine print, go into each soldier's testimony, which i did. and there was some things that came out that really concerned me. >> reporter: one thing that jumped off the pages of the report was the location of the base. >> it was like a bowl, you know, and the top edge of the bowl would be the mountains. they had all the high ground. >> they were going to go up into those things up there called mountains and shoot weapons at us. >> nothing made sense here. even if pu look at the terrain,
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they're trying to establish a combat outpost in a natural kill zone. >> reporter: right at the bottom of the hill. >> yeah. >> reporter: brostrom learned that a second platoon was digging in at wanat, the afghan contractor who was supposed to deliver 16,000 pounds of construction material to build the fences never showed up. >> we ran out of all supplies, sandbags, concertina wire. we had no wood. >> reporter: without heavy equipment, john brostrom's men were forced to build their defenses by hand. and brostrom was told, it got worse. >> i just want everybody to know how [ bleep ] hot it is here right now. >> reporter: brostrom discovered that his son's men were not only short of construction material but nearly ran out of water in the hundred-degree afghan summer. >> pretty much went down to a battle a guy, what was left. >> reporter: and brostrom was told that on the eve of the battle, the sole predator surveillance drone that had watched over the americans was diverted to another location.
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this left his son's platoon blind to the massing enemy forces. >> when you start peeling back the onion here, it gets pretty serious. all of these bad things were being reported up the chain of command. >> reporter: in the spring of 2009, a draft copy of a detailed army analysis of the battle was leaked to brostrom. the 240-page report was highly critical of the senior officers overseeing the operation. it confirmed much of what brostrom had learned. the base was in a dangerous location, the platoon had inadequate construction material, there was insufficient water. warnings of an imminent attack were ignored and their aerial surveillance was pulled. >> there was nothing wrong with the mission that was given to my son. it was the resources he was given to accomplish the mission and the oversight. they were nonexistent. >> reporter: it was a leadership
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failure in your opinion? >> absolutely. >> reporter: drawing on his military knowledge, brostrom began to wage a one-man war for accountability. >> he was a guy that spent 30 years in the army who really loved it as an institution. >> reporter: greg jaffe is the co-author of "the fourth star" about the army's highest ranking officers and a reporter for "the washington post." he covered dave brostrom's mission. >> as he started to dig into what happened at wanat, i think he felt like this institution he loved had betrayed him. >> reporter: brostrom spoke to anyone in the army who would return his calls about the events leading up to the battle. brostrom's crusade continued for months. in the summer of 2009, a year after the battle at wanat, he filed a complaint with the defense department. he alleged negligence on the part of senior officers overseeing the move to wanat. >> you can say it was arrogance, you can call it complacency, negligence or dereliction of duty, it doesn't matter.
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>> reporter: frustrated by the lack of answers brostrom went public with his campaign. >> he continued to pound away, with the media and got a whole lot more noes or we're not really interested or year sorry for your loss before he finally got some traction. >> reporter: some of the soldier who survived were asking hard questions themselves. >> what did those guys die there for? (announcer) even without pre-rinsing the food from your plates, you don't have to worry about this inside your dishwasher. that's because finish quantum has three chamber technology that releases agents to breakdown food residues so they wash away. leaving nothing behind but the shine. quantum. only from finish. the diamond standard. would you like that to hurt now, or later? uh, what?
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in the fall of 2009, a year after his son and others died in the army action, dave brostrom file made some headway in his battle to learn why they died. brostrom got a meeting with senator james webb of virginia, a former secretary of the navy and marine combat veteran, who sits on the senate armed services committee. >> i tried to summarize my argument as succinctly as possible. the more questions he asked, the more upset he became. at the end of about an hour he stood up and said, i'm going to do something. >> reporter: the senator requested the military conduct an independent examination of the battle at wanat. it was brostrom's first victory in his relentless campaign. >> to tell you the truth, i wouldn't have gotten anywhere if it wasn't for senator webb. >> reporter: he took it to the next level? >> absolutely. >> reporter: on his way home to hawaii after meeting with the
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senator, brostrom stopped in the pacific northwest and enlisted in his cause jason bogar's parents, who continue to struggle with the loss of their photographer soldier son. >> brostrom came to seattle, and talked to us about writing senators. >> reporter: are you glad that he's taken on this role? >> yeah. >> reporter: by then brostrom had really done the work and had the background to do the work. it was more keeping up with us about what he found. >> reporter: he also reached out to gunnar zwilling's father. he couldn't forget his son's fear filled phone call. he learned about the problems at wanat, getting the details from the soldier who escorted his son's body home. >> i was appalled. i was mad. i found out that they had no water. mistake after mistake after mistake. >> reporter: zwilling was frustrated. independently of brostrom, he'd
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been trying to get questions answered through his congressional delegation, to no avail. pruitt rainey's dad, who had also learned of the problems at wanat, read about brostrom's crusade and picked up the phone. >> i called mr. brostrom and we started putting our heads together and said, you know, this don't seem right. something was not planned correctly. >> reporter: the retired cole nell who had once commanded thousands of troops now found himself leading a volunteer parents platoon finding out who was responsible for their sons' deaths. some say you're trying to second guess something when you weren't there, trying to re-create events with the benefit of hindsight. >> sure, that's a handicap. but you have nine soldiers dead, 27 wounded. that's just not a normal day in afghanistan. so i think i'm justified to ask
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these questions. >> reporter: some of the families take comfort in the hope that their children's sacrifice may help save other soldiers. >> we have to learn from our mistakes. if we as parent have to hold commanders and leaders responsible and hold their feet to the fire, if we don't, who's going to do it? >> reporter: everyone knows what can happen to soldiers in frontline units. >> yes. and i understand that. this situation was pure recklessness, though. you just have to say, this is wrong and the army needs to look at this situation and learn from it. so they don't do this again. >> reporter: what are you looking for now? >> what i really want is the lessons to be learned so that the units going to afghanistan can read about this and hopefully commanders will prepare so this doesn't happen again. >> i don't want this to happen to any other family.
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in honolulu, just before christmas 2009, jonathan brostrom's 6-year-old son jace accepted a hawaii medal of honor on behalf of his father who was killed in the battle of wanat. the state honor was only one of the scores of decorations including silver and bronze stars for valor awarded to those who fought at wanat including the nine who died. those families remained profoundly wounded. >> he was the light of my life. until i'm laying in the grave next to him, i'll never get over it.
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it will never be over. >> reporter: reminders of their lost loved ones were all around them. >> he was going to become the next martial artist. >> reporter: pruitt rainey never saw the gym his dad built for him. but his dad kept the promise he made to his son in that final phone call from afghanistan. >> last thing he told me was he wanted me to go ahead and play in the world series of poker. if he didn't make it home. so we all went to las vegas and the world series of poker main event and played in honor playing for pruitt. the greatest trip of my life. it was like he was right there with me the whole time. he loved being part of chosen company and chosen few. to him it was a complete honor. his nickname's the warrior. that's on his tombstone. >> reporter: for jason hovator, a much different dream denied.
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♪ >> he would have been working at a church full time, leading the music there. on his tombstone it says that he was a psalmist of the lord. he loved god, and he loved his country, and he fought for us all. >> reporter: in seattle, a mother wondered what might have been for her son, the photographer warrior, jason bogar. >> i think he would have gone to art school, and he would say, i want to be an international correspondent and shoot for "national geographic." i think he would have been fabulous. if you look at his pictures, he had a way of connecting with people. >> reporter: on jason's laptop, his parents found a letter to his family. >> i pray to god no one will
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ever have to read this. never have i felt so strong as i do that what i'm doing here in afghanistan is the right thing. as a result of that, death is easier to accept. i'm just sorry that you all have to suffer for it now. >> comfortable? >> yeah. >> okay. help me. >> reporter: across the pacific on waikiki beach when the break is good but not too big, lieu tenet john brostrom's son jace surfs with his grandfather on the same tandem board he once shared with his dad. meanwhile, the families finally seem to be getting somewhere in their campaign to hold someone accountable for their sons' deaths. although the military investigation wasn't complete, in march, the army did issue letters of reprimand, three commanding officers for proper
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planning the defenses at wanat. a letter of reprimand can end a soldier's chosen career. most of those who survived the battle of wanat including those injured remain on active duty. today they're in a province less than 15 miles from wanat. they came back to almost exactly the same place and these mountains and their mission remained as dangerous as ever. >> our task for today's patrol -- >> reporter: we join them for a week of patrols in early 2010. >> against all enemies. >> reporter: we watched as sergeant christopher mccague, one of the few to survive topside, re-enlisted for another four years. >> i want to thank my brothers from the deployment, last deployment, scanlon, krupa, zargoble. i love you guys. appreciate it. >> today's task is to conduct a reconnaissance. >> reporter: today's policies have changed since wanat. the

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